Thursday, 8 November 2007

Hilda Braid 1929-2007

It's undoubtedly a shame when a talented actress with a distinguished career dies, and it does little to mark the passing of someone with a television and film career spanning five decades when many obituaries spend a disproportionately huge amount of their word count referring solely to the soap opera they appeared in at the end of their career. With that in mind, here is a short tribute to the work of Hilda Braid, who died on Tuesday at the age of 78.

After a spell at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Hildra Braid spent some time at the Royal Shakespeare Company before landing her first acting role in television. This was screened on the 14th of October 1960, playing the part of Alice Flinders in Associated-Rediffusion's crime drama No Hiding Place.

Over the next couple of decades, she performed in small roles in a wide variety of dramas, soap operas and sitcoms, such as Crossroads, Softly Softly, Z Cars, Catweazle, The Onedin Line, Emmerdale Farm, and Man About The House, but it was in Citizen Smith, a situation comedy penned by a pre-'Horses John Sullivan that she is probably best known. Playing the part of Florence Johnson, mother of the titular socialist's girlfriend and well-meaning, perpetually optimistic foil to husband Charlie, she was able to adopt a persona that was to serve her well for much of her later career. The endearingly dotty Florence would frequently make remarks which would inadvertently puncture husband Charlie's middle-class aspirations or Wolfie Smith's (memorably addressed as 'Foxy' without fail by Braid's character) wannabe-socialist ideals.

From that point on, Braid was able to adapt her character to fit in with a number of other comedies, such as Robin's Nest, enjoyable post-'& Mildred Brian Murphy driving-instructor-com L For Lester (we demand repeats!), and an appearance as Mrs Skimpson in series three of One Foot In The Grave (you know, the episode where the burglars phone Victor and ask him how to set the video recorder they've stole from him). However, it was in her role as (that word again) dotty receptionist Enid in underrated ITV sitcom The 10 Percenters that first saw her return to form in a 'proper' sitcom role, one that was essentially Florence Johnson sixteen years on from Citizen Smith. No less enjoyable for that, of course.

More guest roles followed, taking in dramatic fare such as Dangerfield, The Bill, Midsomer Murders, Doctors, Casualty, several television commercials, not to mention a cameo in the live-action movie of 101 Dalmatians and continued work with the RSC. 2001 saw Braid reunite with Robert "Foxy" Lindsay in My Family, but never mind that, she appeared in both Bodger and Badger, and Chucklevision. Well, we think it's worth highlighting. Hope she didn't get in the way of Badger and his mashed potato. Man, that Badger loved his mashed potato.

2002 saw Hilda Braid take up her final role, clocking up an impressive 160 episodes of EastEnders in the role of Nana Moon. More information on which can be found in several other places. We'd pretty much given up on EastEnders by then, as we were sick of it always going on about the blimmin' Slaay-tah family.

Braid had spent her last years in a nursing home in Hove, East Sussex.

Hilda Braid, actress, born on March 3, 1929, died on November 6, 2007, aged 78. Her television and film acting career took in a total of (going by imdb) some sixty different shows over forty-five years.

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